European Commission and WHO/Europe sign €12 million agreement to strengthen health information systems and boost health data governance and interoperability in Europe

WHO/Europe and the European Commission have embarked on an ambitious new partnership to strengthen health information systems and boost health data governance and interoperability in the WHO European Region. The €12 million project, funded by the European Commission, will support health-care services for the nearly 1 billion people living across the 53 countries in the Region.

Harnessing health data

This 4-year project aims to improve the use and reuse of health data by health-care providers, policy-makers and patients, and to enhance the quality and interoperability of health information systems. 

For these purposes, WHO/Europe and the European Commission will develop and deliver capacity-building activities and assistance aimed at addressing gaps, needs and areas of expertise within supported countries’ health information systems and health data governance and capabilities, with a view to potentially expanding successful practices at country or regional levels.  

“Using the full potential of health data effectively, safely and securely means that health-care providers, policy-makers and digital health innovators can fast-track the adoption of new products and treatments, getting these tools into the hands of those who need them most,” said Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe. 

“This new data and digital health partnership between the European Commission and WHO/Europe will align our efforts further, building upon the best European practices to foster safe, reliable and resilient health information systems.”

Ms Sandra Gallina, Director-General for Health and Food Safety at the European Commission, explained, “The importance of health data cannot be overstated. Having robust health information systems and accessible health data can improve the efficiency, safety and personalization of health care, transforming public health as we know it. This is why the European Commission has developed the proposal for a European Health Data Space, part of a strong European Health Union, whose principles can benefit public health not only within the European Union (EU), but across the entire European Region.”

She added, “The partnership with WHO/Europe is an important opportunity to accelerate European integration by supporting the alignment of health data governance and technical standards in EU and non-EU European countries with EU standards, including for citizens and health professionals’ access to health data.” 

Advancing European cooperation 

The project will promote cooperation among participating countries, the European Commission, WHO/Europe and external stakeholders. One key aspect will be the establishment of the Health Information Network, a network of countries engaged in collaborative decision-making, meaningful dialogue and knowledge exchange. 

The initiative will be driven by the principles and ideas proposed in the European Health Data Space (EHDS) framework to facilitate the use and reuse of health data within the EU. The proposal for a regulation on the EHDS is currently under negotiation in the European Parliament and Council, and will make a major contribution to digital transformation in the health-care sector. 

The project agreed will support the goals of the EU Global Health Strategy, as well as the European Programme of Work 2020–2025, the Regional Digital Health Action Plan for the WHO European Region 2023–2030, and the WHO Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020–2025. 

Background

Systems that store health-care data, including medical records, are known as health information systems. For health information systems to be impactful and cost-effective, they need consistent and well structured data. They also need to be able to connect and exchange information with each other across national and international boundaries. This is called interoperability. 

The project is funded under the EU4HEALTH programme in alignment with its objective to “Protect people in the Union and its neighbourhood from serious cross-border threats to health”, under the theme of health data governance and interoperability.

 

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